Radiators and Drains my PTSD Story

This post is not about central heating, boilers or anything to do with water. It’s confusing I know but I have this saying and those that know me or those that have been following me on Instagram for a while, will have seen or heard me use this. Don’t be a drain be a radiator. Radiators are those people we all want in our lives. They are positive happy and just a pleasure to be around. They bring you up instead of bringing you down. Now on the other side of the coin are the drains. These people are hard to be around they are negative they zap your energy it’s always about them. Drains like to be around radiators they feed on their positivity it gives them strength.

But Sometimes a radiator can become a drain….

This is a very emotional and incredibly personal article. (I have had to stop a few times) here it goes.

Let’s start from the beginning on the 20th of June 2010 I married my best friend. Life was pretty good we had just bought a house and we were slowly doing it up one room at a time. We couldn’t afford a honeymoon so instead my dad offered us his flat in Spain for a week in August. It was wonderful we ate everything we relaxed and we started to plan our future. We were so excited everything seemed so easy and fun. Or at least that’s how it felt to me the years that followed when looking back at that precious happy week. 

A week later we arrived back home from our honeymoon. The next day we drove to see my mum. We were so excited, we couldn’t wait to tell her about our house renovation plans we had found a builder and chosen the paint colours everything looked exciting. As it should for a newly married couple excited for their future. The next step for me was to carry on studying while teaching and to one day run the SENCO department at a school(special educational needs coordinator.) I had been teaching for five years and now felt like the right time to take that next step. My husband had just started his own business a scary prospect for him but still an exciting one.While driving our mini my husband stopped at a roundabout suddenly there was a massive bang our car catapulted towards the central section and nothing. I don’t remember anything I hit my head there was blood my back hurt it burned my husband was next to me I remember him looking at me and talking to me nothing. I remember the police arriving and then the ambulance my husband seemed ok he was moving around but it felt to me like everything was moving fast then slow then fast. I was put into the ambulance taken to the local hospital and examined by a young doctor he had blonde hair and a accent I tried to make a joke but it all came out wrong. My husband looked at me strangely. The look as if to say. I don’t understand who are you.

From that moment on I didn’t feel the same I felt different. Physically I was ok I had a black eye some cuts my back was hurt but that  healed after a few months. It was me that changed. I became a different person. It wasn’t until a couple of years later when I finally allowed myself to see a specialist in London. That I was diagnosed as having Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Nobody understands what depression or PTSD feels like unless they have experienced it for themselves. I was a butterfly who turned into a caterpillar withdrawn suspicious I had nightmares I stopped leaving the house except to buy chocolate and crisps. I would go to sleep at 4am and wake up at 12-2pm. I stopped caring how I looked as the weight piled on I listened to my family telling me I had to do something about it. They kept saying just go on a diet but what they didn’t understand was that food was comfort for me. It made me feel safe and that was something I needed so desperately, because I didn’t feel safe not anywhere. The not sleeping regular hours the anxiety and stress made it almost impossible for me to return to a job I had loved for so many years. But I did I started working again a few months after the accident but driving to and from work became impossible. My husband just 5 months after our wedding became what felt like my carer. He would drive me to work every morning and pick me up every afternoon, (this arrangement didn’t last long and I stopped working altogether for a whole year.) His new fragile business suffered because of the time he spent on me. The guilt made me feel worse but still I could do nothing about how I was feeling I was living in a perpetual state of fear hating myself for feeling this way and hating how dependent I had become. The physical changes affected my confidence greatly the weight I have touched on but the hair loss just felt like a kick in the teeth. I have always used my hair as a security blanket but one day I noticed I had a receding parting and thinning sides my eyelashes fell out or I pulled them out from agitation and I would get these horrible spots on my neck and chin. Huge cystic acne I have since learnt was due to the weight and my subsequent hormone imbalance. Iam going to call this next section friends because before the accident I had lots of friends I was a great listener apparently. (Kind and generous not my words theirs) but after my accident my personality changed and those friends couldn’t accept that. One by one they cut me out it wasn’t immediate it happened over a couple of years. I know I pushed them away with my coldness they didn’t like the new Sarah. I understood that I didn’t like her to. You are probably thinking they were not great friends to begin with. But It was my fault to because I put so much into my friendships. I would be the one to always call to always offer help to be supportive. I always and still like being needed. When a friend hurt her foot and couldn’t walk I brought her food and magazines and went to visit her. But after my accident none of them came to visit me, I got the odd how are you call but considering most of them lived no more than 15-30 minutes away it was hard when they didn’t make the effort to see me. So this is where the radiator and drain saying fits in I was a radiator but then became a drain. And so apparently were these friends instead of helping me they made me feel worse. Breaking up with a friend is as hard as ending a relationship. One day they just disappeared there were birthdays I wasn’t invited to baby showers I wasn’t included in. A WhatsApp group which became redundant. It hurt physically and emotionally for years. I was damaged before but after the friendship breakdowns I was a mirror shattered into a million pieces. It took me 3 and a half years to put those pieces back together with therapy and the support of my husband. Recently a couple of these friends got in touch I met both we spoke about what happened it was cathartic they expressed sadness at losing me as a friend. I in-turn I expressed my feelings towards losing them as friends. I said I was hurt and I was sorry for not being the girl they had known before. But I explained calmly I was ill depression is a illness (only now that I feel like me again could I say this without shaking.) One of them said she thought about me everyday. My response was I stopped thinking about her. To get over what had happened I had to delete her number and move on. I told her I mourned our friendship like a death it was hard but I got over it. It has been 5 years since our friendship ended. She was shocked at how I had dealt with the end of our friendship. She said she wanted our friendship to go back to how it was. I said I am happy to see her and be friendly with her but it won’t be the same as it was. All these years I had dreamed about what I would say to these girls who hurt me so deeply. Would I shout would I cry would I laugh instead I stayed calm I was kind I said thank you. Life is to short to precious to beautiful to fill it with ugliness. I am not a perfect person but I try so hard to do the right thing everyday we make choices. My choice is to be mindful and kind as much as I can. But like I said I am not perfect far from it. I still make mistakes.

I have days where I feel anxious where I feel lonely but then I pinch myself (metaphorically) cuddle a cat and take a long hard unfiltered look at myself. I am so lucky I am alive and I thank the universe for allowing me to get better. For giving me a second chance. To appreciate the things and the people I have and the new friends I have made and to allow myself to be brave and take chances.

Thank you for reading.

If you have ever felt lost, hopeless or like you can’t carry on please speak to somebody. Whether it be friend or family, professional or just a helpline. Don’t be like me and bury your head in the sand. Even if you feel like life is standing still it isn’t don’t let your life pass you by. I look at all the incredible things and opportunities that I am making for myself and for all the chances and leaps of faith I have taken and I thank my lucky stars that I didn’t give up. Please don’t give up.

Love Sarah

xxx

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4 Comments

  1. Nicole
    25th November 2018 / 4:06 pm

    Beautiful story Sarah, very brave of you to write it. I’m sure someone out there will find it beneficial and comforting. Xx

    • Sarahthenelizabeth 25th November 2018 / 10:23 pm

      Thank you so much Nicole that is all I want. I hope it does.
      Thank you for reading.
      xxxx

  2. Vaves Faves
    25th November 2018 / 9:52 pm

    Sarah, we’ve already spoken about this but I am so incredibly proud of you for being able to let yourself be vulnerable and write about your accident and subsequent PTSD, and depression. I have been dealing with both along with panic and anxiety disorder for over 5 years, six years on May 6th, 2019 to be exact. Like you, I can pinpoint the date my life changed, and has never been the same again. Like you I turned to food to find comfort, and also like you, all my “loving” friends, who I had been there for through babies, new marriages, failed marriages, lost jobs, new jobs, I had always been there. I too was a radiator, and I had become a drain ( I absolutely love this analogy). One by one, like you, they all faded away. All that remained was my fairly new husband of 3 years, and my 2 year old son. The years have been long, and hard, and someday almost unbearable.. Last year on our labour day weekend (in Canada) I found myself in the emergency room at the hospital. Cause, diabetes. Despite having a solid long line of diabetes in my family, AND being told 2 years prior I was pre-diabetic and given medication to take and told I must loose weight and change my diet, I did none of the aforementioned. What I did do was eat whatever and whenever I felt sad, lonely, scared, depressed and that was just about all the time. I finally went to the ER because my vision became blurry. I recall so clearly standing in the Costco store shopping for “long weekend snacks” and I realized I couldn’t see anything, all the shelves were blurry, and the walls began to close in on me, and right there in the aisle between toilet tissue and bottled water I had a full blown panic attack- which if you’ve not seen or experienced one, look, and feel like a heart attack. My husband finally put his foot down and said, you must go to the ER to see what is wrong you’ve felt unwell for a year, and now you cannot see. So, I had “uncontrolled diabetes” and blood work showed I had likely had it for almost a year. Normal range sugar level for a woman my age (50 now) is between 5-7, slightly higher if you’ve just eaten. I went to the ER first thing the next morning, I hadn’t eaten yet, they immediately took my sugar level and it was 38. High enough to cause loss of vision, and high enough to do permanent damage to my eye sight, and other organs. I could have also easily had a stroke, or heart attack given I weighed in a little over 300 lbs. I was immediately put on an IV on insulin, and within 6 hours my sugar was down to 28, they sent me home and referred me to a diabetic clinic the day after the long weekend was over. I arrived at the diabetic clinic the following Tuesday morning full of fear, fighting back one continual panic attack, as I sat in the waiting room dabbing at my tears behind my huge Chanel sunglasses I chastised myself over and over for allowing my health to decorate the way that it had. As mentioned I suffer from panic and anxiety disorder, one thing that triggers panic attacks for me, is needles. If you are familiar with diabetes or have someone in your family with diabetes who is on insulin, you know what I’m about to say next. After a few hours of testing, taking vile after vile of blood, 5 doctors and a pharmacist gathered in the small room I was in ( in a wheel chair as I could not see to walk- my vision was getting worse by the hour it seemed). They gathered to tell me that I was “lucky to be alive” and that if I ” wanted my son to still have a Mummy when he turned 7, I had to make huge changes in my life”. Did I mention my son has Autism spectrum disorder? I can not, I will not die and leave him alone. I put on my big girl ( and I do mean big! 🙂 ) panties and tried so hard to be brave. My Mother is diabetic as are all of her 6 siblings, her father, my Grandfather dies at age 62 from diabetes complications ( that’s just code for…not trying to control it, not eating properly, not monitoring your blood sugar level, and not taking your insulin as needed). I felt the back of my neck beginning to get warm, then the tingles that make a circle around your face, then racing heart, sweat starts to drip into my eyes, my hands begin to tingle, and WAM, I’m in a full blown panic attack, all I can hear over and over and over again is ” you must inject yourself daily with insulin”. I felt like I was going to die. I couldn’t do it. I knew I couldn’t. This was a kin to asking someone with severe arachnophobia to hold a tarantula every morning, I knew I had to do it if I wanted to live, if not for me, for my son, yet the thought of sticking a needle in my stomach, everyday, made me queasy, and bring on a panic attack. At some point the lovely petite woman who was the pharmacist came over and kneeled down beside my wheel chair, I recall she had the softest hands, and they were so tiny compared to my massive swelled hands due to high sugar, water rention…and weighing 300 l bs. She took my chubby hand and caressed it with her tiny delicate hand. She asked me if I had ever seen one of the needles that are used to inject yourself with. I said no, but I’d seen PLENTY of needles in my day! I knew what it would look like. In my mind the needle was 5 inches long ( to get through all my layers of fat) and I had watched a few you tube videos in which some people do have a fairly lengthy needle and they inject into their upper thigh. So imagine my delight when she produces this thing that looks like a pen, and when she takes the cap off here is the tiniest of needles I have ever seen. She explains it just barely goes inside your first layer of skin ( whew…no 6 inch needle required to get through the fat layers!) She asks if I can just try to holding it, so I did, but as much as I willed my finger to hit the plunger to insert the needle I couldn’t do it. I began to cry, the Dr’s all huddled around me asked in hushed tones, ” are you OK, are you feeling any pain anywhere?” I said no but I couldn’t do the needle, I just couldn’t. Then the pharmacist says ” all done!” I was more than surprised. I said “what? What do you mean all done? I didn’t feel anything?” She explained that if you do it properly, always use a fresh needle ( so that it doesn’t become dull) I likely wouldn’t feel anything. Well, she was correct. I came home with my nifty new needles, a whole book with diet plans, a new diabetes medic alert bracket, and a new outlook on life. I’m not sure if you have Ikea in the UK ( I’m pretty sure you do) if you do you know those massive blue bags that you can get when you walk in, to load up with a hundred things you likely don’t need. I came home and filled up 8 Ikea massive blue bags overflowing with foods I could no longer have. My in laws were watching my son for me and I asked them to take the 8 huge bags of food and either use it themselves, donate to other family members, donate to the local soup kitchen anywhere but here. They obliged. That began my lifestyle change. Now, a year and 2 months later I am down 70 lbs, and have 50 more to go. I’m still a drain, I’m afraid my “rad” days are behind me, but perhaps there is something in between a Rad and a drain 🙂 whatever that is…i think that’s what I am now. None of those friends have come back into my life, I have precious few friends, but do have a sister whom I love, and while she lives 3000 km away, we’ve recently made a pact to see each other every 3 months. This year I’ve seen here 3 times, and prior to these year it had been 4 years since I had last saw her. I still do not work, and recently I was given a “disabled” diagnosis by the Government which at least allows for a little compensation while I am home, trying to figure out lies between a radiator, and a drain. Bless you for having the courage to tell your story to help others who may be suffering in silence to reach out and get help. I am blessed to live in a Country with free National health care, and ample access to very good mental health practitioners. Thank you Sarah Elizabeth for prompting me to tell my story also.

    • Sarahthenelizabeth 25th November 2018 / 10:22 pm

      Thank you, thank you thank you Faves I am sorry is that your name. I have just read your comment and I am in awe you are a inspiration. Youbhave come a long way and you my darling are 100% a radiator. A lovely radiator. Definitley 10000% not a drain. Reading your story we share so many similarties. I also have a terrible fear of needles and just the thought brings me out in a hot flush. Sweaty palms dizziness etc once while having a routine blood test I started to hyperventilate I broke out in a cold sweat within seconds my whole body was drenched and they had to clear the whole blood room because apparently I went chalk white and started to go limp. My poor husband was totally petrified. I can’t imagine having to inject myself everyday you are so brave. Not just because of that but for sharing your story. I am so glad that so much has improved for you and you showing your son what a strong person you are you have set the most important precedent for him for now and the future. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this. Wishing you so much happiness for the future. Love and light to you.
      Xxx
      Sarah Elizabeth

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